ABF Freight System Inc. (ABF), a freight carrier that operates more than 200 transportation facilities in 47 states and Puerto Rico, has resolved allegations that it violated requirements of the Clean Water Act (CWA) relating to industrial stormwater at locations across the country.
Under the proposed settlement, ABF will enhance and implement its comprehensive, corporate-wide stormwater compliance program at all its transportation facilities except those located in the state of Washington, and will pay a civil penalty of $535,000, a portion of which will be directed to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, the State of Maryland, and the State of Nevada who all joined this settlement.
The complaint in the case, filed contemporaneously with the proposed consent decree, alleges that ABF failed to comply with certain conditions of their CWA permits (e.g., spills that had not been cleaned up; failure to implement required spill prevention measures; failure to implement measures to minimize contamination of stormwater runoff; failure to conduct monitoring of stormwater discharges as required; and failure to provide all required training to ABF’s employees) at nine of its transportation facilities.
“Companies must comply with Clean Water Act provisions to prevent waterways from being contaminated by industrial pollutants,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This consent decree ensures that measures will be implemented at hundreds of transportation facilities across the nation to protect nearby waterways and the communities that live along them.”
“Through this settlement ABF will implement an enhanced, comprehensive stormwater management program at transportation facilities they operate across the country,” said acting Assistant Administrator Larry Starfield of EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This settlement exemplifies EPA’s commitment to working with companies like ABF who notify EPA of noncompliance and then work to improve compliance with the Clean Water Act to help ensure the protection of local water resources.”
“Water quality affects every citizen equally, it’s importance simply cannot be overstated,” said U.S. Attorney Clay Fowlkes for the Western District of Arkansas. “This agreement ensures that ABF will take significant steps towards ensuring that water quality is not negatively affected by its operations. This settlement would not have been possible without the commitment and cooperation of all the federal, state and local agencies involved along with ABF.”
In April 2015, ABF voluntarily disclosed to EPA that it failed to obtain industrial stormwater permit coverage at multiple facilities and had discovered additional areas of noncompliance with the CWA through the company’s own compliance audits which were conducted at nearly all its facilities during 2013 and 2014. Between October 2016 and April 2019, EPA, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, the State of Maryland, and the State of Nevada conducted 15 inspections of ABF’s facilities and observed noncompliance with applicable stormwater laws at both CWA permitted facilities and No Exposure Certification (NEC) facilities.
To address the extent of ABF’s noncompliance, the proposed consent decree requires ABF to continue to implement and enhance its comprehensive, corporate-wide stormwater compliance program. This includes a memorialization of stormwater roles and responsibilities, comprehensive employee training with contractor awareness, implementation of standard operating procedures, stormwater pollution prevention plan management, and tracking facility-specific corrective actions. The settlement also requires ABF to conduct tiered management oversight inspections at its permitted and NEC facilities throughout the three-year implementation of this consent decree.
Stormwater runoff from industrial facilities can pick up pollutants like trash, chemicals, oils and sediment that can harm waters throughout the country. Pollutants in stormwater can cause changes in hydrology and water quality that result in habitat modification and loss, increased flooding, decreased aquatic biological diversity, and increased sedimentation and erosion. It is critical that all facilities requiring permit coverage appropriately apply for permit coverage and adhere to applicable stormwater regulations to ensure environmental impacts are effectively minimized.
The injunctive relief measures set forth in the proposed consent decree are designed to result in effective stormwater runoff management at ABF’s facilities, including those facilities that conduct vehicle maintenance and equipment cleaning.